Mistletoe, Walter de la Mare: Summary & Analysis

"Mistletoe" by Walter de la Mare is a brief and evocative poem that captures a sense of mystery and longing. The poem unfolds in a dreamy atmosphere as the speaker sits under mistletoe, creating an atmosphere of anticipation and enchantment.


Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

Critical Analysis

"Mistletoe" by Walter de la Mare creates an atmosphere of mystery and enchantment, drawing readers into a moment of quiet contemplation and unexpected intimacy. The poem takes place in a dimly lit and quiet setting, where the last candle burns and the dancers have left, leaving the speaker in solitude.

The mistletoe, described as "Pale-green, fairy mistletoe," lends an ethereal quality to the scene, evoking a sense of enchantment and magic. The mistletoe is a symbol of romantic potential, and its presence sets the tone for an unexpected encounter.

The imagery of shadows and the mention of "Shadows lurking everywhere" create a sense of uncertainty and anticipation, suggesting that something or someone might emerge from the darkness.

The second stanza continues the dreamy ambiance, with the speaker's head nodding and their senses dulled. This drowsiness enhances the element of surprise and the possibility of an otherworldly experience.

The poem concludes with the mysterious encounter—the unseen presence's kiss. This kiss is both a culmination of the atmosphere of longing and a representation of a fleeting connection that defies the ordinary.

"Mistletoe" crafts an atmospheric and enigmatic scene that captures the imagination and leaves the reader with a sense of longing and wonder.


"Mistletoe" by Walter de la Mare is a brief and evocative poem set in a quiet and dimly lit atmosphere. The poem's imagery of mistletoe, shadows, and a solitary candle create an atmosphere of enchantment and anticipation, leading to an unexpected kiss that lingers in the realm of dreams.

Themes of the Poem

  • Enchantment and Mystery: The mistletoe and the shadows evoke an aura of magic and mystery, enhancing the dreamlike quality of the poem.
  • Unexpected Connections: The kiss from an unseen presence represents a connection that defies conventional circumstances and expectations.
  • Loneliness and Solitude: The poem captures a sense of loneliness and solitude, which is briefly interrupted by the presence and kiss.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: The poem's imagery of mistletoe, shadows, and a single burning candle creates a vivid and evocative setting.
  • Repetition: The repetition of phrases like "mistletoe" and "burning on" creates a rhythmic and hypnotic quality.


  • Anticipation and Longing: The atmosphere of mistletoe and shadows generates a feeling of anticipation and longing for an unexpected encounter.
  • Surprise and Enchantment: The kiss from an unseen presence generates surprise and enchantment, leaving the speaker and reader in a state of wonder.


  • Symbolism: The mistletoe and shadows serve as symbols of romantic potential and mystery, adding depth to the poem's imagery.
  • Metaphor: The mistletoe is referred to as "fairy mistletoe," introducing an element of fantasy and magic to the scene.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythm and Repetition: The repetitive use of phrases and the rhythmic flow of the poem contribute to its dreamlike quality.
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